Seaforth hosts SONC Cheerleading Tournament for second straight year

Over 200 athletes, 22 teams compete for gold in Pittsboro


PITTSBORO — For the second straight year, Seaforth High School, with the help of student volunteers, hosted the Special Olympics North Carolina Cheerleading Tournament Saturday.

Over 200 individuals with and without intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics athletes from across North Carolina competed for the gold medal in their respective divisions. The divisions were determined by the style of the routines and the sizes of the teams.

The tournament included 22 teams from the following counties: Buncombe, Cabarrus, Clay, Cleveland, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Harnett, Iredell, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Orange, Pitt, Stokes, Union and Wilkes.

“These athletes are really working hard to earn the right to be here,” SONC President and CEO Keith Fishburne said. “They’ve got their routines they have to practice and get ready for. This is a spotlight weekend for them.”

Despite it being a competition, every team was showered with support from a packed gym of athletes and spectators.

The teams spent weeks, or even months, preparing their dances, stunts and chants that included signs and glittery pom poms. For many of the coaches, it could be a challenge making last minute changes or preparing them to perform in front of hundreds of people, but the athletes’ resilience and love for what they do showed up in a huge way on the mat.

“It’s a lot of pressure when they get out there on the mat,” Emily Auten, head coach of the Cabarrus Shine said. “It’s loud. There’s a lot going on. But, seeing them dial in and nail their routine is such a good feeling because you know you’ve prepared them well enough to go out there and execute it to the best of their ability.”

Placing didn’t really matter to the coaches and their athletes as the most important thing was having fun and being happy. Other than performing, the best part of the event for some athletes like Katelyn Anderson of the Davie Jets was watching the other teams’ routines.

“I’m so happy for everybody,” Anderson said.

But, winning gold made the day even sweeter for victors like Sheneeka Bolder of the Cabarrus Shine, who said winning gold for the mount and tumble traditional large division brought “joy to (her) heart.”

Before the competition began, Fishburne, on behalf of SONC, presented the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office with a 2023 Top Ten Award given to the top ten highest fundraising law enforcement agencies that participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Torch Run is the largest year-round public awareness and grass-roots fundraising campaign for Special Olympics in which law enforcement members carry the Flame of Hope into opening ceremonies of Special Olympics competitions and host local fundraising events.

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office raised $65,344 during the 2023 Torch Run, the fifth highest amount in the entire state.

“It’s really not about the Sheriff’s Office, it’s about the community that supports Special Olympics,” Chatham County Sheriff Mike Robertson said. “I want to thank Mark Jacobson Toyota. He’s been one of our title sponsors from the beginning. There’s many other people that sponsor that.”